If you’ve ever looked into your family history, you might find stories there that are much more exciting than just the names and dates on a genealogy chart might predict. That’s just what happened for author Tristi Pinkston as she read two family history books and discovered that her ancestors had been among those who were on the wagon train known as the Hole in the Rock expedition. An idea was born, and soon Season of Sacrifice was underway.
Season of Sacrifice is the story of Sarah Williams, a young Welsh immigrant, coming to Utah to join her sister Mary Ann Perkins. When the Perkins are asked to join the San Juan mission to pioneer a trail through Southern Utah, they take Sarah along to help care for the children. But a six-week journey turns into six agonizing months of hard work and toil as the Saints blast their way through a cliff to bring their wagons through what would become the famous Utah landmark Hole in the Rock. Finally settled in the San Juan, Sarah's true hardship begins when her brother-in-law Ben Perkins asks her to be his second wife. With their faith and testimonies challenged to the core, both Sarah and Mary Ann struggle to find the true meaning of Christ-like love and obedience.
Tristi explains, “I was blessed to have access to a short life history written by my great-great-grandfather as well as several life sketches written by his descendants. I relied heavily on the family history books, as well as books written about the expedition that had been put together by scholars in that field. I also found another LDS novel which had been well researched. That gave me even more insight into the people and their experiences.”
When writing a novel such as this, it might be easy to offend a family member in some way. To insure this didn’t happen, Tristi visited with her father who assured her that the project had to go forward. “I didn't want any of them to feel that I was trying to make money off the story,” Tristi says. “My goal in writing this has always been to commemorate the past and to help my children understand the richness of their heritage, not to make money.”
Of course, when writing historical fiction, an author must take liberty in recreating people, conversations, and sometimes even events, but Tristi says, “I stuck as closely as I could to the journals and family history books. It's my hope that I've told it in a way that mirrors the real experience as much as possible. To be honest, I didn't know a lot about these ancestors on a personal level when I started the project. Of course, the stories have been passed down through the generations and I knew who they were, but it wasn't until I started the research that I felt like I came to know them as people.”
And through that journey, she feels she came to know Sarah the best. “I identified with each character in a different way,” Tristi says. “But I would have to say, I'm most like Sarah, my great-great-grandmother.” If there were any character she would like to know more about, it might be Tom Wilcox. “It might be fun to see what happened to Tom after Sarah set sail,” Tristi says. “Or to Thomas while in Australia. A lot of possibilities there!”
Many people don't understand that marketing plays a huge role in success as an author. When asked about her marketing strategies, Tristi says, “Mainly, I've gotten out there and interacted with the reading public as much as humanly possible. I've done book signings, library events, readings, boutiques, literacy events and firesides, all to create name recognition and to help people put a face to that name. I've also done virtual book tours and other forms of Internet marketing, which is hugely helpful.”
Her advice to anyone who wants to become and author? “Actually do it. Don't talk about how you want to write a book or how much you would like to be an author— do it. The only thing standing in your way is you. And after it's written, let someone who knows what they're doing edit for you. Don't be too proud to accept constructive criticism.”
Because many of my readers are students or teachers, I asked Tristi what were her favorite books as a teen. “Wow—what didn't I love! I'm an avid reader and gobble up anything contained within two covers. Let's see—Little Women, Girl of the Limberlost, Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time, The Prydain Chronicles, everything by Norma Johnston and Ann Rinaldi. Ann is actually the author who got me interested in writing historical fiction.”
Although researching family history was an interesting experience for Tristi, she has decided to do something completely different for her next project. She says, “I'm writing a series of contemporary mysteries about an elderly Relief Society presidency who turns to espionage to save a family in their ward from wrack and ruin. It's off the cuff silliness and I've had so much fun writing it.”
And it sounds like a lot of fun for those of us who will be reading it.
If you’d like to read more about Tristi, or purchase a copy of Season of Sacrifice, visit her website at http://www.tristipinkston.com/.